Toward the end of June, Diane and I couldn’t bear waiting one minute longer to see our grandkids in Southern California.
After much debate, we decided to drive the 1,200 miles to see our daughter and her family. The longing of grandparents to see their grandchildren can’t be underestimated. It’s a powerful force.
Millions of grandparents around the world are feeling this ache, but are separated by long distances. We also have a daughter in New York. We wonder when we will be able to see her and her daughter, our granddaughter, again. It makes me sad.
We took three days to make the trip — staying at Airbnb’s along the way. We were self-contained, bringing our own food with us to minimize shopping, and making sure to sanitize hard surfaces and washing our hands frequently.
Honestly, at times it was stressful. In public areas, 75% of the travelers wore masks. But a quarter of the adults seemed to be blissfully unaware of the global pandemic. As members of the Older Adult Club, we don’t want to get COVID-19.
Since both our daughter and her family have been sheltering at home, and my wife and I have been careful, we were able to spend some blissful time together. There is nothing like a hug from my 3-year-old granddaughter, with her arms wrapped tightly around my neck, to bring joy to this grandpa.
Now that Zoom school is over and the Northwest weather is turning warm and sunny, the summer season begins. We all have to acknowledge that this will be a summer like no other. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that the world hasn’t seen for 100 years. Still, we need to find imaginative and resourceful ways to create joyful family experiences. We can do it!
Some things to consider:
Children are inherently resilient and resourceful. Parents worry about the long-term effects of social distancing on their kids. They are concerned about their children becoming overly anxious about germs. Kids will take their cues from their parents. If parents approach these issues calmly, consistently and thoughtfully, children will follow suit. When this over, which it will be someday, children will quickly adapt to the new normal. The majority of youngsters will bounce back.
Time together is precious. None of us miss long commutes, congested roadways and rushing around. This odd time has also been a gift — nurturing more family meals, cooking together, playing board games and spending time with each other.
Limit screen time. Sure, this spring we’ve allowed an increase in screen time to make up for fewer activities. But let’s encourage children to learn how to entertain themselves this summer. That’s a skill that keeps giving through our adult lives. It’s hard to dial back screen time, but trust me, it’s worth it.
The great outdoors beckon. As state parks, trails and recreational areas open, it’s a perfect time to lace up our hiking shoes and experience the freshness of summer in the Northwest. Outside, it’s easy to keep a safe distance from others while enjoying the visual feast of nature.
Travel thoughtfully. “Public” health means protecting yourself and others. Despite our differences, we are all living through this pandemic together. We’re responsible for one another. Wearing masks in public protects others and you from infection. Yes, it feels strange and uncomfortable. But this one simple act can save the lives of vulnerable children and adults. Take time to plan your trip, thinking about how to stay safe and healthy. Plan carefully.
And then, when all is said and done, enjoy this special time together.
Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.